The Da Vinci Code: Chapter 6

Summary: In the Grand Gallery of the Louvre, Langdon examines Saunière’s nude corpse, still sprawled in the spread-eagle fashion that the victim himself arranged. On his stomach, Saunière had painted in blood a pentacle (a five pointed star). Langdon tells Captain Fache that the pentacle is an ancient pre-Christian religious symbol, indicative of the feminine principle of religion. Saunière’s body position doubles, or reinforces, the pentacle. Fache points out that the dead curator is clutching a black-light marker. The message that is revealed (but not yet to readers) when Fache shines a black light over the crime scene delivers a further shock to the already stunned Langdon. Meanwhile, Agent Collet has sequestered himself in Saunière’s office, listening to and secretly recording Langdon and Fache’s conversation.

Analysis: This chapter presents further exhibitions of Langdon’s symbological prowess; now, however, Brown is moving us toward the mystery at hand. The dominant image in the chapter—drawn on Saunière’s stomach in his own blood, and replicated by the way in which he positioned his nude body before dying—is the pentacle. Langdon’s explanation of this symbol seems largely correct, if oversimplified. Also known as the pentagram, the pentacle may appear as an ancient symbol for the divine feminine; it is also, however, “a sacred symbol of mind-body harmony” (e.g., for Pythagoras) and “a fundamental symbol” of the traditional five elements (light, air, wind, fire, and water in much Gnostic thought). And while it certainly does predate Christianity, the image accrued many Christian meanings: in Christian art, it is often “associated with the five stigmata of Christ, or, because of its closed form, with the coming together of beginning and end, Alpha and Omega, in Christ” (Hans Biedermann, Dictionary of Symbolism, 1989; New York: Meridian Books, 1994, p. 262). Brown, however, as an accomplished writer, can hardly be faulted for highlighting only those symbolic meanings that advance his plot and thematic interests; and, at any rate, he, like his character Langdon, is well aware of the multivalent nature of symbols. Some of the oversimplifications of symbols in The Da Vinci Code upon their initial introduction are expanded upon as the novel progresses.
It cannot be denied that the pentacle is a symbol of wholeness; and wholeness is a driving force behind Saunière’s use of the pentacle, as Langdon indicates: “The ancients envisioned their world in two halves—masculine and feminine… This pentacle is representative of the female half of all things…” (pp. 39-40). It is also, sadly, undeniable that Christianity has a history, for which it must repent, of twisting symbols of beauty into symbols of terror and even evil, as Langdon also indicates: “In the battle between the pagan symbols and Christian symbols, the pagans lost” (p. 41).